Be Prepared to Hear No and Pivot. I had no idea how often I would hear “no” from media when I started my career. While I didn’t expect a “yes” every time I pitched someone, no one told me how hard it would be to get their attention in the first place. That’s why today, I always tell up and coming publicists and PR rockstars to be prepared to hear no and pivot — and to also think of “no” as “not right now.” You will hear “no” as you pitch yourself or your clients, so always have a plan to keep the door ajar to get coverage in the future.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Carver Smith.
Kristin Carver Smith is the CEO and Founder of The New Fashioned Co., a multimedia company dedicated to helping women mix business and pleasure to create a life they love. Kristin has spent the last decade helping clients across a variety of industries — including sports, entertainment & lifestyle, music, publishing, logistics, and supply chain, nonprofits, and for-profits — develop business strategies, communications plans, and campaigns that produce winning results.
Her clients have appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s TODAY, FOX News, FOX Business, CNN, CBS News and in Sports Illustrated, Redbook, USA Today, Entrepreneur, US News and World Report, Parade Magazine and the Washington Post, among others.
When she’s not helping her clients casually make the news or turn their passion into paychecks, you can find her with her nose in a book or dancing in her kitchen like nobody’s watching. She resides in Lexington, KY with her husband, Nick, and fur child, Greyson.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I knew I wanted to be in communications but being a publicist was never on my radar. In fact, I had my sights set on becoming Director of Communications for the White House one day! But when I met a rockstar publicist who had started her own firm and agreed to take me under her wing, I was hooked. I quickly fell in love with helping set the agenda for what people talked about, developing creative angles and segment ideas for news stories, and of course, the rush of securing a huge media opportunity for a client to share their incredible story.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Recently, I was able to use my publicist powers for good. I was brainstorming a segment idea with a client and we really wanted to do something special for essential workers and frontline responders. But we also wanted to be sure that it tied in with the theme of my client’s book. We brainstormed and decided that we wanted to do an exclusive interview and giveaway with the nation’s number one cable news outlet — -huge exposure for my client, her product, and ultimately, the exact audience she was looking to reach. The only snag? We needed to find a frontline responder who we’d be able to surprise on LIVE national television and we had a matter of days to pull it off. It just so happens that my incredible, deserving best friend is a frontline responder and trauma nurse. Needless to say, we pulled off a powerful, inspiring segment where everyone won. And my client hit #1 in numerous categories from the interview!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that
When I first began working as a publicist, I wasn’t familiar with all of the questions that I needed to ask a media outlet or an interviewer for when they actually said “yes” to covering the client. I regularly would forget to ask for a backup number for the media contact, which sounds trivial, but when a client can’t get a hold of the journalist or vice versa and they lose the interview opportunity… well you get the point! Needless to say, I’ve learned that it’s better to ask for too many details (and have several back-up numbers!) than to make assumptions or be fearful of “bothering” media with questions.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My team and I work on so many interesting and exciting projects! It’s never a boring day at the office. We love the ability to be selective about what we work on, who we work with, and what messages we’re amplifying in the media. Right now, we’re working with a number of leading social justice advocates, as well as powerhouse females. It’s such a privilege helping push messages like human trafficking prevention, breast cancer awareness, gun violence prevention, mental health, and ultimately, hope, to the forefront of media.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Writing is Crucial (and You’ll Keep Getting Better at it).
When I first started out as a publicist, I wrote a press release that my then boss ripped to shreds. I remember being devastated that I had missed the mark so significantly. Why? Because writing is the foundation of great PR. If you can’t write well, it’s challenging to pitch and get coverage for your clients or yourself. Do what you can to exercise your writing muscle as much as possible and constantly ask for feedback and editing from your boss, colleagues or mentors. It may be a tough pill to swallow when the strikethroughs and red-ink come back, but in time, your writing will get better and better and you’ll be a stronger communicator because of it.
2. Be Prepared to Hear No and Pivot.
I had no idea how often I would hear “no” from media when I started my career. While I didn’t expect a “yes” every time I pitched someone, no one told me how hard it would be to get their attention in the first place. That’s why today, I always tell up and coming publicists and PR rockstars to be prepared to hear no and pivot — and to also think of “no” as “not right now.” You will hear “no” as you pitch yourself or your clients, so always have a plan to keep the door ajar to get coverage in the future.
3. Building Media Relationships Takes Time.
Building media relationships, much like friendships, takes time. There are only a handful of journalists that I’ve instantly hit it off with and become besties with overnight. But this is the exception and not the rule. Most of the media relationships that I have today have been built over the course of a decade. Put in the work it takes to know your media friends. Regularly read their content, know their beat, and treat them like the human being that they are. Too many publicists view relationships with journalists as transactions rather than mutually beneficial.
4. PR and Marketing Should Always be Integrated.
If you take nothing else away from this interview, remember this: siloing marketing and PR is old fashioned. The new fashioned is integrating the two for maximum impact. When I started out as a publicist, we worked with numerous marketing teams on projects. But it always felt like the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing and vice versa. Then, when I went to work at a marketing agency, the same thing occurred. The result: missed opportunities and frustration. As soon as you or your marketing team bring an idea to the table, invite the other to be a part of the strategy, planning and execution of it.
5. The News is a Renewable Resource.
So many of us in PR (as well as the clients we serve) can operate in a scarcity mentality — that if we don’t get the interview right that moment or during that launch, that we’ve missed the opportunity for good. Here’s the truth: the news is a renewable resource. The show that you want to get featured on? It’s back tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Sure, sometimes outlets shutter, but a new show, magazine, newspaper, podcast or blog will appear in its place. Just because you don’t get the interview today doesn’t mean your story isn’t the perfect fit for another opportunity.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
One of the best ways to be a great networker is to be a great cheerleader and supporter for someone else. I’ve been able to connect with individuals all over the world because I’m vocal in my support of other individuals, brands, and businesses that I admire or are inspired by. An easy example: you’re scrolling through Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook and you see someone you don’t really know, but really enjoy what they have posted or stand for. Do more than simply “like” the post. Leave a comment and use your words to let them know why it resonated with you. By doing so, you’re laying the foundation for a new connection and expanding your network.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
This may seem surprising, but one of the best and most effective ways I’ve generated leads is to knock it out of the park with the client you currently serve. Why? Because clients that have an incredible experience with you rave about it to everyone they know — -including all of the other individuals in their networks. Taking great care of and exceeding your current customer’s expectations — especially if you have a niche or serve a very specific type of client or customer — will help establish you as a go-to resource.
Another strategy that’s helpful is to communicate very clearly on your website, in your sales collateral, on your business cards and social media platforms, who you are and what you do — as well as what you don’t do. Think about incorporating language into your services and sales pages like:
· “You’re the perfect fit for us if you love…”
· “The ideal candidate for this job enjoys…”
· “If you’re looking for…, then you’re in the right place.”
· “We’re not the right partner for you if you’re looking for…”
One of our biggest barriers to generating qualified leads is mirky communications. Ensure your communications are clear, compelling and concise.
Lastly, to generate qualified leads, you have to show up in the places and spaces where your dream clients are actually hanging out. Whether you’re using earned media and reaching them through PR or even paid social media ads, knowing exactly where they are, and getting in front of them with those clear, compelling and concise messages is how you ensure you’re attracting more of your tribe (and not folks you DON’T want to work with or aren’t a good fit for).
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Oprah Winfrey’s The Wisdom of Sundays was given to me a few years back and to date, it’s one of my all-time favorite books. Being a publicist and communicator in the 21st century is stressful. We have a 24/7 news cycle and in some ways, you’re always “on.” It’s critical that you take care of your mind, body, and spirit to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed and burned out — -or worse, jaded and cynical. The Wisdom of Sundays helps remind me to slow down, pause, sit in the present moment and if only for an hour, tune out all the noise around me.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start the New Fashioned Movement, where we throw out all of these old fashioned, outdated business, communications, and societal philosophies that no longer serve us anymore. First to go? The phrase, “You can’t mix business with pleasure.” Not only do I believe that you can mix business and pleasure, but I believe that you should. By doing so, you can create a life you love.
Everyone is in the business of something and when you look at business, not as a means to an end, but as a key to unlocking the life of your dreams, that’s where the beautiful intersection lies! That’s the new fashion. The only place old fashioned belongs is in our glasses.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.